Cargoes & Capers: The life and times of a London Docklands man by Johnny Ringwood
|Cargoes & Capers: The life and times of a London Docklands man by Johnny Ringwood|
|Reviewer: Peter Magee|
|Summary: The memoirs of a London Docklands man who has achieved much and inspired others. It's very readable and honest. Johnny Ringwood popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 178||Date: March 2017|
Johnny Ringwood was born in 1936, just three years before the start of the second world war, as he says, slap bang next to the Royal Victoria dock. His education was somewhat limited, not least because it was regularly interrupted by the Luftwaffe. You might therefore be surprised at what he has managed to achieve in the intervening eighty years. I certainly was.
Like many children from the East End of London he was evacuated, in this case to the Yorkshire Dales. I was unaware until I read his account that children were lined up, almost like a beauty parade, and were selected by the householders with whom they were to live. Unfortunately for the author, he was left until last and then sent back the next day! The heartache of evacuees was highlighted by the fact that he and his younger brother were separated, despite the fact that his mother had expressly told Johnny that they should stay together. They would both return to the East End before the end of the war. Ringwood's recollections of what the conditions were really like in the East End before, during and immediately after the war brings home quite dramatically the difference between conditions now and then, but it is perhaps at the expense of the loss of the camaraderie in the neighbourhood.
It's quite apparent that the author is not afraid of hard work. He joined the Merchant Navy at sixteen and delighted in the chances which it gave him to see the world. Between trips he would work in the docks, but because of an absence from the Merchant Navy his call up was enforced and he saw more of the world, courtesy of the Royal Fusiliers.
This might sound like an ideal life for a young man, but Johnny suffered a nervous breakdown. It was his positive attitude which brought him through this along with his later conversion to Christianity, inspired by the Rev. David Sheppard. Sheppard (and Ringwood's close friends) would later support him further when the author was convicted of handling stolen goods: Ringwood was to say that he was grateful to the woman who shopped him as he would otherwise have been headed for a life of crime.
Back on the straight and narrow he was able to return to his former job with the local council and gave something back as a part-time youth worker - trying to encourage the young not to fall into the same traps as he had. He's since worked at helping people to get and stay fit, set up his own Health and Safety consultancy and run first aid courses.
When you read the book, you can clearly hear the man speaking: this is a brutally honest account of how Ringwood has lived his life and of the values which have guided him. He's inspiring - he makes things seem possible as you'll see when you read about the Dockers Statue at the Royal Victoria Docks - and makes an excellent role model for young people. It's not what you're given in life, it's what you make of it.
If that sounds all rather dry, don't be misled. Ringwood has a quirky sense of humour and I laughed out loud on several occasions, not least at the story of the talking budgerigar who escaped - and failed to say goodbye. I read the book through in a couple of sittings and would gladly have read more. I've occasionally been tempted to read celebrity memoirs and usually been left with the feeling of an empty, meaningless life: it was a real pleasure to read of an 'ordinary' man who has led an extraordinary life.
If this book appeals we think that you'll also enjoy A Sailor's Tales by Captain William Wells.
Johnny Ringwood was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Cargoes & Capers: The life and times of a London Docklands man by Johnny Ringwood at Amazon.com.
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